Trying to Fly High- With Dignity Wings..!


A Woman With Disability and Her Plight in Flight


Sai Padma

Disabling the Disabled-Coverage-Global AID

I am a Disability Activist,

I have traveled six months non-stop without assistance in USA,

I am fine by my standards despite my spinal cord condition.

I have polio with scoliosis for which I got operated and inserted spinal implants.

I have traveled not only in most primitive rural areas but all kinds of weathers and conditions.

I am a practicing advocate with bar council of Andhra Pradesh

I am a social worker based @Visakhapatnam, managing and running a hostel and five tribal hamlet schools, an indo-us university joint project.

But, When two times I traveled in India via King Fisher & Spice Jet respectively dated August’21st ,2011 and October 4th ,2011 has given me a scare towards flying. My pleasure became panic, my spine became my best support and worst enemy..!

I pondered many days after that… Did I do any wrong? Haven’t properly made my reservations? What went wrong..? after Ms. Jeeja Ghosh case and other cases pouring over and over now.. Now I know what went wrong or what might be the other way..

Ok friends.. let me go into the story.. of How a Person with Disability Travel in domestic airlines in India..


How we book our tickets?….Able-bodied persons, disabled does it thru online.. got me wrong.. There is no provision for web-based booking for persons with disabilities in Indian Websites like or etc.. or for that matter travel websites like or etc.. they ask you only these things..are you male or female? Age? Address?.. and credit or debit card details.

Then how do we book tickets? Just like anyone.. and then we have to call the help line about our disability, if you need wheelchair assistance that also have to be mentioned thru that helpline only. I remember doing it many times for patients of High BP, old age etc.. in addition to Persons with Disabilities. And we have to tell them what kind of assistance we needed. At some airports they ask “are you carrying your own wheelchair?? Post modernization of airports some hassles was lessened.

So this is how we book tickets and have to make at least twice requests in advance that somebody in a wheelchair is trying to fly on the said time and date!!

@The Airport:

Now we have come to airport on a wheelchair/crutches/calipers.. Ok..Now what we do? First we go through the baggage; there you fight with the baggage people there to allow your own customized wheelchair (either manual or power) in the cabin. Another argument regarding not to transfer to airport wheelchair to avoid maximum number of transfers. After lot of suspicious looks, you enter the security area. There all your charm and fighting spirit is of no use.. they say.. “ sorry madam.. we have to screen you and your wheelchair separately!! And you can’t take your wheelchair near aircraft without being screened!!.. ( for me a transfer takes 10 minutes and pain too.. another problem is once I sit I cant sit and stand many times..) different length of chairs are not suitable to me. So I will stand till they screen me in cubicle and get my wheelchair screened separately thru a luggage channel. Just the wheelchair screening process takes 15 minutes to one hour…!! I got to stand till the wheel chair comes screened. Then after all these two arguments I can sit in my own wheelchair.. am I not pampered??

Oh! Forgot.. At some airports, we are forced to sign an indemnity bond as well..! in the name of ability, whatever happens to us, airlines won’t take any responsibility. This is in addition to showing them your disability certificate that declares what assistive devices you are using.

@The Aircraft:


Now we came to air-craft by a single person lifting me into air bus that takes passenger to aircraft. Sometimes they do it from front. Sometimes back.. with an expression in their faces to deal with troubled passenger. The bus moves before you apply breaks (of course no functional breaks for most airport wheelchairs) last time when the bus moved me with wheelchair kissed the rod that stands as support to other passengers (don’t ask about my spine yet!)

So we came near to air craft, someone brings an aisle chair (carrying chair for persons with wheelchairs, which is narrow and can go inside the aircraft, when this chair is not available, airlines will give us an option to be lifted manually, by an untrained staff.. no other option) As I can make one or two steps with calipers.. I am saved of these pains. But for those who can’t no other option for dignity and saving grace!!

Inside the Aircraft:


Inside the aircraft, I have never been given front row seats as they have more leg space, which can be a great facilitator for me. The reason for denial is security reasons… a disabled passenger are not supposed to sit in the front row.

So they allot some seat.. if we are lucky we get the aisle seat so that we can adjust ourselves easily into the tiny seat. If not, when the hand rests between the seats are locked or jammed, it’s like hell to squeeze your body into middle seat!

Now you can breathe in.. but don’t think of going to rest room whatever the length of flight is. Now you can worry about your wheelchair that you left at the steps of the air-craft. No air lines, so far, obliged to my request of having my 18 inch foldable wheelchair as cabin baggage. I have to declare that as luggage only. Sometimes upon me and my husband’s repeated requests and threats they will put a fragile tag to the wheelchair and assure me verbally that “ Nothing will happen to my wheelchair..! It will be safe..!” but nothing in writing…no one wants responsibility.

So if you repeat the same in reverse order it becomes the return journey…now what the airlines have to learn:

  • Respect the persons with disabilities as consumers
  • Have transparent policies
  • Give them dignified flying experience
  • Don’t estimate them by their appearance… see the functionality of mind.
  • Look at their ability not the disability
  • We need dignity and support…not just pity in the name of over-protection

Here is how I am inspired to write this..! Experts who are working tirelessly towards the change of two things.. ACCESS & ATTITUDE! Despite the hardships they are facing..Please read their links and advices.

Ms.Shivani Gupta

Ms.Anjalee Agarwal

Ms.Jeeja Ghosh (who started the biggest whirr)

Mr. Subhash Chandra Vasisht:

Mr.Rahul Cherian

DR.Aiswarya Rao

Ms. Sai Padma

Now it’s time for Solidarity…Time for Garner Support.. friends..




To sum up all these things.. when I am fuming with pain and anguish about the way I am treated at these whole experience.. A porter who lifted my wheelchair, casually said.. “ be thankful madam..atleast you are able to fly??” Now my question to all educated and policy makers who talks about inclusive world.. Do they think of us in the same way..? are we just a hapless creatures still shown only pity??? How inclusive is your minds?? is the question.. that everyone have to put themselves..!

Please tell me when you know the answer.. and please read it through and leave a comment..!!


© Sai Padma ://IPR All Rights Reserved



  1. an honest and sincere fight towards basic human rights …..this is commendable and every one should join to fight it out and get a solution. why doesnt the airlines take th eresponsibility of changing thier attitude. this is not a pitiable condition but a dissent we show towards all organizations who are responsible and ask no demand them an immediate action. a little care form the air ports and air lines authorities would suffice. no question of pity its a demand on behalf of our people who cannot travel normally…thats all..they should think an develop a policy that they are not doing any favor but making the travel much more comfortable so that many of us feel like travelling in their arlines ……WE ALL SHOULD DEMAND IT AND SEE TO IT THAT IT IS ACHIEVED … lots of love to all ….love j

  2. I think that this is a pathetic way to treat anyone. Every human being has a dignity of his or her own. How can give comfort only to people who are used to it but think nothing of someone who really needs it. The world has to learn even basic things like respecting another individual

  3. Very well written piece Padma!

    Transfers from wheelchair to craft seat is a nightmare for me…since I cannot even stand, these luggage loaders lift me in the most ridiculous ways with a big attitude that they are doing me a big favour and I should be most obliged and tip them for being treated like a bag of potatoes.

    I’ve even had to pay about Rs 1600/- for he use of ambulift just to board into the flight the return ticket for which costed about Rs 3000/-. This was after the DGCA Car was enforced. I’ve had to wait for for than an hour in the flight after landing jus for the airlines staff to get a wheelchair mostly happens when it is the last flight and they do not have a time crunch.

    Now after Jeeja’s case I am scared myself as the pilot may anytime decide that I am not fit to travel. The list of indecencies just goes on and on…..

  4. It gave me shiver!!!
    I will never be able to fly…well it was my one of the dreams to fly but I think I have to drop it until…….
    I saw some images of aisle wheelchair and its arm rest, I cant even imagine to sit on it. Nor do I am comfortable with someone else to lift me. While lifting me will he take care of my clothes? My delicate body, that cannot be afforded to twist little by arms or legs? I am afraid would I ever be able to fly out of India?

  5. Reading these posts has left me with a deep sense of anguish.Travel for people with special needs, be it air, rail or road needs great deal of improvement to say the least.
    Shivani’s horrific account of her train trip and these accounts of air travel are just the tip of the iceberg. Comfort and dignity is the right of all passengers. For a country whose constitution states that all citizens have a right to equality ,is this discrimination on the basis of ability not a direct violation of a crucial fundamental right? And, is it not ironic that a nation which is the epitome of spirituality and humanity deals in such an inhumane way with those who have the most need of considerate behavior?

  6. Unfortunately in this area like so many other, it just shows that although having laws, rules embedded in the constitution, etc are good steps forward, those “premises” do not secure the final objective. Every step forward requires attention, engagement. To “walk the talk” is not the most usual behaviour, and worse it is more and more common to communicate loudly but to act minimally. Hence the importance of the civil society, of all the small (and in some cases not so small) practical real steps forward taken here and there, of all the people really engaged in the field. Ultimately I feel like they are (more rigorously than laws) making sure there is a change of attitude … and then commercial entities and government agencies need to follow in order to remain relevant and/or attractive!

  7. You know Sai, most of the inclusive policies, are at best, so exclusive, that they smack of the empty efforts of the hollow purports. The way systematization of functionality has evolved is reminiscent of a borrowed mentality that should have been thrown ages ago. Change has to a spontaneous process, but not always. It is to be forced when you find non-sensical high-nose lots sitting behind the rule/roll making positions.

    What we need has to be an approach that synthesizes out of bottom up and top down flows.

    Sensitization is must.

  8. I ve already suggested that we should ve a strong act like d anti dowry act. All disabled ve d right for self respect so all of us join hands together asking d govt for strict rules like even when d family ill treats, public ill treat, schools and colleges should give concesion in fees for d children of disabled, hospitals should give some discount say 25 percent for any treatment or surgery, govt has to change d laws and d disable ve to have more rights. Wish we all join together and bring d change.. Iam ready anyday anytime.. We can even go on a fast or a strike to change d laws.. thanking u praful

  9. Lets not talk about only airports, wot about to d cruelty on the disabled at their own house. What about those who cant afford good treatement i ve slod all my property for my treatment.. My son wants to study well will i get a discount from d educational instutes? And i ve a bro wil i get more preference during the sharing of property? I ve stopped taking certian medicines due d increase in cost? We have to bring a big change! Like d dowry act d disable must ve a right to complain if ill treated.. Please lets join together and bring d change…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s